"Let's do this!" says the Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) to Tonto (Johnny Depp) as they embark on something big and this-ish. It's 1869, by the way, a time before the wide usage of gung-ho bro-isms like "Let's do this." But no matter, Tonto has his own unusual relationship to language. Depending on his fleeting feelings about stereotypical, condescending portrayals of Native Americans in media, he will utter stuff like, "When you were on the other side [of active, living consciousness during a spirit walk], you spoke of [your female love interest] in your vision," or "Nature is indeed out of balance," or, just as arbitrarily, "Horse dead!" as though the infinitive "to be" were suddenly a tool of white devils. Clearly, just about anything, linguistically speaking, is fair game with Tonto and the fact that he doesn't begin dropping 2 Chainz rhymes is the real mystery of his vocabulary.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's forget about Tonto and LR's adversarial friendship and futuristic chattiness for a moment. Let's talk about the enormous entertainment machine they're trapped inside. They're iconic characters from a bygone era, buried alive and suffocating under the pressures of rebranding and franchise building. They're the vintage square pegs that "the team that brought you Pirates of the Caribbean" are going to sledgehammer into a round hole lined with cash. And since nobody under 50 knows much about them at all, anything can be done to them. And anything is.
An ineffectual pawn in his own origin story despite Hammer's earnest striving to fill the big white hat, this Lone Ranger is also infinitely mockable, his bland blondness and stoic do-rightness fair game, as every single new acquaintance quips, "What's with the mask?" On a mission to stop a brewing battle between white settlers, greedy railroad developers and the Comanches, he's thwarted at every turn by his own inexperience, but more so by the film's refusal to take him even half as seriously as, say, Ryan Reynolds in The Green Lantern. This is a problem.
Other problems: everything except the production design. It's a money-on-the-screen spectacle of admittedly entertaining and absurdly convoluted Rube Goldberg-inspired action sequences (the kind director Gore Verbinski has been in love with since Mousehunt), 19th century railroad cars, saloons and whorehouses that would make Baz Luhrmann tip his 3D hat, and studiously lax personal hygiene makeup effects that turn nearly every person on-screen into an alien visitor from Planet Grime. Nearly everything else -- that pesky stuff you're supposed to actually care about -- is a waste of whatever energy you'll spend watching and listening.
There's no life outside the mechanical stunts, no momentum based on character or story, no happiness or joy or excitement, no thrill in discovering that this single do-gooder can save the day with the help of his almost friend (the miscast Depp as a man who virtually everyone in the film calls a "crazy Injun" even as it pays other-side-of-the-mouth lip service to justice for Native Americans). There's nothing to root for, nothing to push you to the edge of your seat, nothing to think about, nothing to love. It is the most colossal, misguided, dust-choked mess to hit movie screens so far this summer. Let's not do this at all.
STAR RATING: 1/5